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Issues including advantages and disadvantages

Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 1 month ago

Focus Group Issues



The advantages of focus groups


  • The Authority Role Of The Moderator

The face-to-face involvement of a qualified moderator can ensure that the conversation is always on track, and encourage participants’ engagement without one individual dominating the meeting.


  • The Ability Of Group Participants To Interact With Each Other

When participate are stimulated to discuss, the group dynamics can generate new thinking about a topic which will result in a much more in-depth discussion.


  • The Dynamic Nature Of The Methodology

Due to the dynamic environment the moderator can modify the topics, which are prepared before the session to make the topic more suitable for the purpose.


  • The Ability To Involve The Client Personnel In The Research Process

In traditional focus groups it is possible for the client personnel to watch the whole discussion behind a one-way mirror. The client personnel can provide their thinking to the moderator, which may help the moderator better handle the direction of discussion, and improve the quality of output.


  • The Capability To Utilise Non-Verbal Behavior As A Research Input

The expression, attitude of individual, the intensity of the conversation etc. can be perceived by the researcher, which can modify the moderator’s decision and also can be counted in the research result.


  • The Level Of Participant Involvement In The Research

Because every participant is under observation by the moderator and everybody know the process has been videotaped, it is easy to make participants fully engage even during non-discussion time.


  • The Greater Security Associated With Traditional Focus Group Research

The possibility to screen each participant, lets the researcher know who have been involved. This ensures that for example your competition is not involved.


The disadvantages of focus groups

Focus groups are not the optimal technique for all research situations, the criticisms below have been mentioned by people who promote some other qualitative research methods.


  • Focus Groups Tend To Become Influenced By One or Two Dominant People In The Session Thus Making the Output Very Biased

The moderator plays an essential role in handling the situation, but if the moderator is not experienced enough, it is very easy for the whole discussion to be dominated by a few people.


  • Focus Groups Are Not As Effective As IDI’s In Dealing With Sensitive Topics

It is difficult to have the participants share their real feelings towards some sensitive topics publicly. This can in turn influence the output data.


  • Focus Group Output Is Not Projectable

If a great deal of consistency in the results from a series of focus groups have been identified and it is very likely that the results from these sessions probably can represent a larger number of people. We can’t expect focus groups to be projectable in the same way as quantitative study findings can be.

Furthermore, traditional focus groups can only be held in a few cities, unlike some internet and telephone focus groups which could be organized in various situations without limitation of time and location. This also makes data from focus groups less representative of the total universe.


  • Focus Groups Are A Very Artificial Environment Which Can Influence The Responses That Are Generated

This is frequently the argument that ethnographers will use when recommending their methodology versus focus groups. Because researchers using the ethnographic technique will situate themselves in the real environment, that is unreachable for focus groups. In focus groups people are collected in a meeting room thus they might behave differently from how they behave when they are not watched and it will effect the quality of research results.


The special features of focus groups

In qualitative research, focus groups have some differences from other survey methodologies.

  • Insight not Rules

Focus group can provide trustworthy naturalistic data that also lead to important insights about human behaviors by allowing all participants to say anything they would like in front of the whole group. Meanwhile, researchers listen not only for the content of discussions but observe something beyond talking, such as tone and emotions which help them to learn or confirm not just the facts but the meaning behind the facts.

  • Social not Individual

In a focus group session, conversation among participants results in discussion data. In this way, focus groups elicit information that paints a portrait of combined local perspectives because the research may seek ways to fit all together. It is possible to gauge a groups’ overall reaction to educational materials, but not on an individual basis.

  • Homogenous not Diverse

Focus group researchers select and invite 20-25 people with similar characteristics to a single session. The goal is to fill the room with a minimum of 10-12 participants that are similar (Krueger and Casey, 2000) which is supposed to increase the quality of the data.

  • Flexible not standardised

During the course of a two-hour session, we can see a natural conversation will be produced because individuals are allowed to laugh, tell personal stories, revisit earlier questions, disagree with other research, the moderator only needs to lead the conversation on track by applying his prepared interview guide. Actually, a well-designed guide encourages group members to relax, open up, think deeply, and consider alternatives.

  • Warm not Hot

Focus groups do not produce reliable data on topics that produce extremely strong feelings (Krueger and Casey, 2000). Because conversation in some cultures which are of a sensitive nature will not be discussed thoroughly.

  • Words not Numbers

Focus groups rely upon words spoken by participants. A report based on focus groups will feature patterns formed by words, called themes or perspectives. Researchers must use specific methods to analyse patterns in spoken language (Creswell, 1998).

A focus group method isn’t meant to create generalisations of this type and its procedures offer none of the protections that would permit them to do so (Fern, 2001). Numerical analysis is not a preferred technique. In fact, it is inappropriate to report a result of focus groups by percentage.


Creswell, J. W. 1998. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Traditions. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.


Group plus. June 2003. retrieved April 5, 2006 from: http://www.groupsplus.com/pages/Respect3.htm


Fern, E.F. 2001. Advanced Focus Group Research. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage.


Krueger, R. A., and M. A. Casey 2000. Focus groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research (3rd edition.) Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

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